Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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Budgeting Ideas from a Missionary


December - Time to start planning next year's family budget. I thought I'd share how our family plans our annual budget as a practical and hopefully helpful blog post. A budget is not something we often think of when imagining the life of a missionary, but as a missionary it's definitely needed!  We get finances once a month and have to make that stretch.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5

A little background first. Before I gave my life to Jesus, these budgeting concepts were foreign to my husband and me. As a matter of fact the first year of our salvation, we lost our house and our car due to bad financial decisions. We had a bank account but never balanced our check book...just looked at our ATM balance and went from there. Can you say bad idea, lol! Neither of us are from prosperous backgrounds or even from middle class America. Although my husband does come from a hard working background, I don't.

We first started learning about budgeting when Pastor Gordon asked Pastor Andy Anderson to do a financial seminar for us in Corpus Chrsiti, TX (Where we got saved). It was a real eye opener for us and really helped us. Pastor Anderson went over all the budgeting forms and so forth, but what was so helpful was the preaching that accompanied the practical helps. Since then, I've read countless books including ones from Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey which I encourage everyone to do as well.

Allocation Spending Plan
When we lived in the U.S., I made up this form. If you click on the link or the picture you can download it and use it for yourself. That form is for a yearly budget with weekly paychecks. I don't use that anymore as we are now on a monthly budget. However if you are on a weekly or semi-weekly budget the excel spreadsheet is the way to go as it does all the math for you. It's based loosely on Dave Ramsey's idea of having your money allocated before you get it.

The following is based on keeping our budgeting simple and quick. Instead of a computerized budget I now use a simple notebook.  The basic concepts are the same, so it will work on computer or paper.

  • First I title the 1st page "Savings 2014" and title the second page "Monthly Expenses".
  • Then I turn to the 3rd page and title it January 2014 and do that with the consecutive remaining months for the next 11 pages. 
  • Immediately after "December 2014", I start titling the pages "Grocery List Week 1" and continue for 52 pages until "Grocery List Week 52".
  • Next we pray about what God would like us to give to support conference, give to world evangelism (at conference & our church), for revivals, birthdays, Christmas, our anniversary, and any other needs we might have. The reason we start planning now for conference is that when we 1st got saved we heard an offering illustration at conference one year that never left our memories. The pastor said something to the effect that if you are sitting here wishing you could give but you don't have any money it's all the times during the year you should have been setting money aside that are to blame. We hated the inability to give when our hearts were so moved!
  • Once we have a base number for everything we need to save for, we then determine the dates we will need the money available. So for example our anniversary is in March. We divide the amount we determined by 3. For conference it's 10 because our conference is in October. We continue down the list for every item.
  • Next we go to the second page and write down our income and expenses and a general estimate if it fluctuates like the electricity bill. Now we have a general idea if we can afford all that we want to do. If we can't we rework the numbers say for birthdays or stuff like that. The general budget is done.
  • Now before every month begins we turn to the appropriate page and write down our income at the top and start subtracting expenses such as tithe, offering, W.E., savings, rent, and so forth. Very similar to my income allocation sheet but on paper and only 1 column because we only get money once a month. By this time we have the electric bill and other bills that fluctuate so it's more accurate than the general budget.
  • I make a second column for  groceries and write the weekly dates. For instance in January, I would write 1/2/14 on first line then 1/9/14 on the second line and so forth. Next to each date I write amount we will have available for groceries.
  • The way we determine available amount for groceries is by dividing whatever is left after expenses and savings by 4 or 5 depending how many weeks are in the month. Sometimes it's not very much so that is where the weekly grocery list becomes very important.
  • I then turn to the weekly grocery list and make a list based on amount of money available. Since I have an Android phone I then quickly type my grocery list into my Google tasks, so I don't have to take the notebook with me.
Numbers might seem high bcuz our money is 2BZ to 1US.














Now for some tips!

  • Always start with prayer!
  • Keep your money separated in envelopes that way when it's gone it's gone. Here are some links where I explain cash envelopes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
  • When it comes to finances as in other areas of life remember most things are a trade. Before I buy something impulsively , I ask myself "What am I trading this for?" 
  • When it seems easier to eat out than to cook ask yourself, "What am I trading this for?"
  • If you have more month than money consider buying fans and turning off your a/c. (We do that.)
  • Only use your a/c at night. (If it's unbearably hot we do that.)
  • When you don't have much money left in your gas budget take a bus or walk. ( We do that.)
  • Eat leftovers for lunch or dinner depending on which one is the big meal you cooked for. ( We do that.)
  • If you don't eat your leftovers by the next day freeze them. Buy freezer bags and save for when you don't have time to cook. ( We do that.)
  • Use coupons or buy a discount card at your local store. ( We don't have coupons here, but we did buy a discount card from our local grocery store.)
  • Buy used clothes. ( We do that.)
  • Shop for your fruits and vegetables at the local market instead of grocery store. (Yep, we do that too, lol!)
I'm sure there are many more tips, but this post is really long already! :-)  If you have any tips, ideas, or questions please leave them in the comments below. God Bless!

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Friday, August 23, 2013

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Great Pastor Warner Quote


Musing: what's important about a person NOT the color their skin, but what will make big difference: are you thin-skinned or thick-skinned?
— Harold S. Warner (@pstwarnerCFC) August 23, 2013

So true! Living in Belize has really opened my eyes to prejudice...and being a pastor's wife has helped me to grow a thick skin, lol!
Acts 17:6 - 31 6 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

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Monday, August 19, 2013

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Free or Low Cost Online University for Missionary Kids is Possible!

My daughter recently graduated from homeschool at the age of sixteen while living overseas in Belize. We were a little concerned about her continuing education but were trusting God to provide.

As missionaries finances are very limited, so being able to afford college as a foreign student just didn't seem possible and sending our young daughter to America without us was not an option.

The solution: Online university classes!

I started looking into different Texas universities that offered online degrees and classes. After contacting different schools, I found this informative website http://www.utcoursesonline.org/

I called and spoke with a lady who was able to direct me and helped me choose University of Texas of the Permian Basin as my daughter's home campus. I also came across this article claiming U.S. News and World Report named UTPB 46th in the nation and first among Texas public universities for online bachelor’s programs. 

I looked into their freshmen admission requirements  and since my daughter was homeschooled the entrance requirements were a little tougher. Also since we are currently serving in Belize, I wondered if we would still be considered Texas residents since the school fees are considerably higher for non-residents. In addition, we wanted to apply for financial aid. I called the school and the admissions clerk was very helpful. He explained to me that since we were still considered Texas residents with the IRS, DPS, banks, etc. we should still qualify for resident fees. To make sure, I also contacted FASFA and confirmed with a representative on the phone. She was very helpful and stated that we qualified as Texas Residents for FAFSA.

Once that major hurdle was out of the way, we started the application process. Thank God my daughter did well on her ACT exam because as homeschoolers we could not provide class rank or TAKS test scores. Within a month she was accepted!

Part of the reason we chose UTPB was because of The Falcon Promise. They promise free tuition for four years for Pell grant eligible students with an income of $60,000 or less. We knew we would still have to pay for her books, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses. We almost didn't apply for any other scholarships because most required for you to live on campus.

I'm so glad we decided to file for scholarships anyway. My daughter was awarded the Freshman Merit Scholarship Award and the Book Scholarship. We received the letter while our daughter was at our church boot camp in Texas. We almost missed the deadline to accept the award. The financial aid office was very helpful and allowed us to fax the acceptance letter along with a Home Housing Exception Certificate stating my daughter lived with us in Belize and would not live on campus.

Once she was accepted, we noticed she would have to attend freshman orientation and meet with an advisor in person before she could register for any classes. Well, that wasn't going to happen, so I called admissions once again. The clerk directed me to email to my daughter's advisor with our situation. The advisor was very helpful and immediately pulled the registration hold and advised my daughter over email.


So I guess the moral of our story is don't quit asking for what seems impossible. God is faithful and will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus!

My daughter starts classes next Monday, so please keep her in your prayers!
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

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Are God's Love and God's judgement (wrath) opposites?

We heard a great sermon last night during revival asking us if God's love is unconditional. Pastor Martinez left the question for us to wrestle with and through, but he made a great case for why it isn't unconditional. That sermon stirred up a bee's nest in our congregation. We had visitors who said they would not return. What about that question did not sit well with people?

Well I'm not a theologian, but I think it's because of the phrase unconditional love, it's meaning, and how it is being used today. Originally, I thought God's love was unconditional, and I could think of scriptures quickly that spoke of God's love for me. However, no where in the bible does it state that God's love is unconditional. And I realized the answer is not as clear cut as I thought.

According to the website http://www.acts17-11.com/cows_unlove.html, the phrase unconditional love didn't become mainstream until the 1960s during the LSD drug culture. Read the following excerpt from the same website:

God's love is truly amazing... God's love is unilateral: He loves the unlovable and gives His glory to them. God's love is completely undeserved. God's love is unfailing for those in whom He delights: who respond to Him and receive His Son. But, God's love is clearly not "unconditional"; for wrath and eternal damnation will come to those who reject His Messiah and His Gospel. Let us be sure to be found in the position of receiving God's love, and not His judgment. Let us heed the conditions clearly set forth by our Lord so that we can be at peace with Him. And let us shout the message of these conditions from the rooftops so that others might be saved, rather than retreat into thinly veiled license, universalism, or anything else that "sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2Cor 10:5).

That statement is where I got my blog post title.  Are God's love and God's (wrath) judgement opposites? I did a little research on the web and most people who site God's unconditional love are pastors who are Calvinists or proponents for homosexuality such as this person who left the following comment on this Campus Crusades (Calvinist) blog about God's unconditional love:

We naturally respond with great relief and gratitude when we read scriptures that tell us that our sovereign Lord God loves us unconditionally and that Christ paid the sin debt of the world in full. This must include the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered. Like all of us, we are saved by a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and a commitment to do as Christ commands us? Is it not a sovereign act of God to declare us all righteous by faith in Christ? Is it not the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (God) to begin our sanctification process to bring us to God, lest any of us should boast? Then why to we use the word of God to oppress and condemn a segment of people created in the image of God when God love us unconditionally. Also why does the fundamentalist church use scripture to condemn and discourage people from having a saving faith and a prayer relationship with God, whose Grace we all depend upon?

Isn't that comment insightful? Scary how the human mind can take a statement (not in the bible) and twist it to mean what they want. I'm pretty sure based on last night's sermon that this is the type of unbiblical (is that a word?) thinking pastor Martinez was trying to turn our minds from.

While reading and researching further I came upon an excellent article by Timothy Lane that explains what my thoughts were in asking whether God's love and God's (wrath) judgement were opposites.

http://www.theologynetwork.org/doctrine-of-god/the-wrath-of-god-as-an-aspect-of-the-love-of-god.htm

Here is a small excerpt, but I recommend you read the article it in it's entirety. (Emphasis are mine)

The second experience was more recent, At a church service the reading was from Romans chapter 12. "Love must be sincere," began verse 9. The next word came as a shock. "Hate." "Hate what is evil." For most Western Christians hate is the last word that would be associated with love. But a love that does not contain hatred of evil is not the love of which the Bible speaks. It is most fitting therefore that a volume on God's love should include an essay on the wrath of God. This is necessary, not because we need to balance God's wrath with his love, as rival attributes, but because God's love itself implies his wrath. Without his wrath God is simply not loving in the sense that the Bible portrays his love.

What did I decide? 

Is God's love unconditional in the way that Calvinists and homosexuals infer when they make that statement?  NO.

Are God's love and His wrath opposites? NO, because God's love must include God's wrath.

Therefore, in my opinion IF you were to include God's wrath in God's love then you could rightly say His love is unconditional. Sadly, most people will not include God's wrath in His love and will miss out on eternity.



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Monday, June 24, 2013

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How to add cfmpics Instagram slideshow to your blog


They say a picture is worth a thousand words...but here it goes anyway.

First go to Snapwidget. Then fill in the information similar to the above picture. Size depends on where you will add it to your blog. If you are adding it to a sidebar then 200px seems about right. Just play around with it until you get the size you want. 

Next you will click on get code. Copy the code and open up or switch to your Blogger layout screen. Click "Add a gadget" and choose "HTML/Javascript". Paste your code and title your gadget. 

Click save and you are done. Now you can move your gadget anywhere you would like on your sidebar.

However, if you want to add the slideshow to a post you will click onto add post instead of Blogger layout. When you are ready to add the slideshow click on HTML and paste the code. Click save and publish and you are all done.

Let me know if you have any questions.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

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Mother's Day Card from my daughter


A Mother’s Day Poem by: Rhiannon

I can imagine when I first came out with big eyes a smiling mouth
The joy you probably felt could not compare to anyone’s wealth
The love in a mother’s heart is something few can understand
The tender heart and hands you used to bring me up

The way you saw fit— Even when I brought you pain, trouble, and grief
Somehow you still loved me. You brought to life the meaning of the of the words hope, love and faith by showing me your Christian example everyday.
So thank you for being there for me.
Thank you for trying.
Know that your mother’s love is not in vain because I love you too.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY


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Monday, April 22, 2013

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Subject Transcript Instead of Yearly Transcript - High School

Well I finally finished compiling my daughter's transcript. She graduates home school June 1, 2013. I purchased Homeschool Tracker years ago to make the transcript process smoother. Alas, it didn't work out for us because I enrolled her in private school for 3 semesters.

Entering all her info again would have been very confusing and time intensive based on how the program is set up. Plus I realized a subject transcript would be a better fit for us than a yearly transcript and Homeschool Tracker only offers a yearly transcript broken into semesters.

The university she is planning on applying to (University of Texas Permian Basin) told me they don't want multiple transcripts for high school. They want me to consolidate her transcripts into one. So, that's what I did.

I searched for a subject transcript, but couldn't find one I liked. I finally ended up picking and choosing different parts from various transcripts and just making my own. In the hope of saving someone out there time, I'm making mine available.
  • Based on subjects instead of years
  • One page
  • Space for recording SAT and ACT scores
  • Space for GPA and credit info 
Click here for Subject Transcript Template

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Friday, January 18, 2013

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Escabeche - Belizean Soup Recipe

Today I cooked Escabeche, my favorite Belizean soup. Hard to believe, but our temperature is in the 60's!  This is the closest we will get to soup weather, lol. This was my 1st time cooking Escabeche, but it won't be my last! My husband and I enjoyed it. I think what makes the Escabeche so unique and different from any other soup that I've tried is the addition of vinegar. I hope you will try it for yourself.

Ingredients:
1/2 of a whole chicken or if you are like my family - 4 bone in chicken breasts

1/2 cup of vinegar to wash chicken

1tbs of olive oil

6 cups of water or enough to cover chicken and make a nice broth.

6 whole escabeche peppers or jalapeno peppers if you don't have access to escabeche peppers

10-15 whole black pepper seeds - depends on your taste

10 whole spice seeds

3 cloves garlic crushed with garlic press. If don't have garlic press then just dice them.

3 chicken bouillon cubes

3 large onions - cut like you would cut an onion for onion rings

1cup of vinegar for soup

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
First rinse chicken with 1/2 cup vinegar and water.

Then in a  6 quart pot heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown for about 3 minutes on each side.

Pour in 6 cups of water. You might need more or less depends, but just make sure you have enough to cover chicken and still have plenty of broth.

Add the escabeche peppers, whole black pepper, whole spice seeds, garlic, and chicken bouillon cubes.

Bring to a boil then simmer for about 30 minutes.

Next add 1 cup of vinegar and 3 large onions - the more ppl eating the more onions you add.

Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about 15 minutes.

Serve with corn tortillas. Enjoy!




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